Unfinished Business, I Fear

There was a huge cultural festival taking place on the week-end that we were in Derry in Northern Ireland. Folks were celebrating St. Colmcille, who was the founder of the city. In the wake of a great battle about 1,500 years ago, St. Colmcille had apparently left Ireland for the remote island of Iona, Scotland. This festival marked his imagined return to the city.

Hundreds of people gathered in a central square in the city to take in various performances during the celebration. The crowds were too much for us, and we spent most of our time walking the walls of the city and visiting 'bogside' to view the People's Murals.
Hundreds of people gathered in a central square in the city to take in various performances during the celebration. The crowds were too much for us, and we spent most of our time walking the walls of the city and visiting ‘Bogside’ to view the People’s Gallery.

In spite of all the merriment, I have to admit to feeling a bit on edge the entire time I was in Derry. While there is no longer any outright fighting between the Loyalists and Nationalists, I got the sense that strong feelings were bubbling away barely below the surface.

Two stories: Joe and I were in a restaurant eating lunch. A man came in who appeared to be under the influence. The staff wouldn’t serve him. Angry, he grabbed a balloon attached to a baby carriage in the restaurant and stamped on it, causing a huge loud bang that made us all jump. The noise was so loud; it sounded like a gun going off.

Later, Joe and I were walking in the area of Derry known as ‘Bogside’, where much of the unrest took place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. I was looking at the large murals painted to mark some of the big events during the Troubles. All of a sudden a water balloon exploded on the ground just inches from my feet. I looked around and couldn’t figure out who had thrown it or where it had come from. Joe said it was probably just some kid playing a joke. Maybe, but regardless, I felt uneasy.

This mural depicts the 1969 three-day "Battle of the Bogside". It was a battle between local youth and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and prompted the YK government to send British troops into the area. The residdnts of Bogside barricated the streets. "Free Derry" was a no-go area for the security forces, its streets patrolled by IRA volunteers.
This mural depicts the 1969 “Battle of the Bogside”. It was a stand-off between local youth and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and prompted the UK government to send British troops into the area. The residents of Bogside barricated the streets. “Free Derry” was a no-go area for the security forces, the area patrolled by IRA volunteers.
The British army breaks down a door as it works to retake IRA-controlled areas.
The British army breaks down a door as it works to retake IRA-controlled areas.
A group of men led by a local priest carry the body of Jackie Duddy, the first fatality on Bloody Sunday.
A group of men carry the body of Jackie Duddy, the first fatality on Bloody Sunday.
This mural is called "The Death of Innocence" and shows 14-year old Annette McGavigan, killed in crossfire in 1971. She was the 100th victim of the Troubles. She stands in front of a bombed-out building. The broken rifle stands for the failure of violence to achieve anything. The butterfly symbolises hope in the peace process.
This mural is called “The Death of Innocence” and shows 14-year old Annette McGavigan, killed in crossfire in 1971. She was the 100th victim of the Troubles. She stands in front of a bombed-out building. The broken rifle stands for the failure of violence to achieve anything. The butterfly symbolises hope in the peace process.
The 1981 hunger strike. The strike was only called off after 10 people, inclcuding Bobby Sands shown in the forefront here, starved themselves to death. 100,000 people attended Sands' funeral. It appears someone with a green paint gun didn't approve of this mural and the message it sends.
The 1981 hunger strike. The strike was only called off after 10 people, including Bobby Sands shown in the forefront here, starved themselves to death. 100,000 people attended Sands’ funeral. It appears folks with green and white paint guns didn’t approve of this mural and the message it sends.
And look what was on a building on a side street...Picasso's "La Guernica".
And look what was on a building on a side street…Picasso’s “La Guernica”.
The final mural in the series is an image of a dove rising out of the sadness and horror of the past.
The final mural in the series is an image of a dove rising out of the sadness and horror of the past.
In another section of the city there are a series of Loyalist images, such as this one. And we noticed the English flag (as opposed to the Irish one with its green representing the Nationalists, the orange the Loyalists, and the white the peace and common ground between the two) flying in a predomiinent spot for all in Bogside to see.
In another section of the city there are a series of Loyalist images, such as this one. And we noticed the English flag (as opposed to the Irish one with its green representing the Nationalists, the orange the Loyalists, and the white the peace and common ground between the two) flying in a predominent spot for all in Bogside to see.
Another Loyalist mural.
Another Loyalist mural.
Derry's Peace Bridge. I hope with all my heart there is lasting peace for this beautiful part of the world, but I worry there is still too much unfinished business.
Derry’s Peace Bridge. I hope with all my heart there is lasting peace for this beautiful part of the world, but I worry there is still too much unfinished business.
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